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JOHN MONASH. AUSTRAtIA'S GREATEST SON. (By C.B.) IT s fitting that the iermination of World War Ii and the contemplated wide eXtClendO of the State Electricity Commission's works in the Mlorwell area should revive ienmories of the great Australlan soldier-engineer, Sir John IlMonash, who applied the qualities of a brilliant and triumphant leader to the building of the vast electrical undertaking in which he was the guiding spirit for the first ten years. The following appreciation, written by a member of the old A.I.F., who was also iltimately associated with bhin in the Yallourn undertaking, gives a clear picture of this brilliant Australian.
"Although I know the task I have set myself will commend itself to every member of the old A.I.F., I recognise it is a very heavy, and exacting one. Men much more eloquent than I have tried to do justice to the miemory of John Monash, only to experience ti sense of frustration. "I am emboldened to add my homely tribute, not only as a soldier in the last war, but as one who worked as a civilian under him for ten years in that great undertaking which he did so much to develop-the State Electricity • Commis sion of Victoria. "Monash was not one of those whose fame began and ended with the war, for it rests just as securely on his post-war achievements. The war was a job of work to which duty and patriotism call ed him, and to which he applied the highest qualities of leadership, a bril liancy of intellect, and the orderly thinking and planning of the trained logician and engineer. When the job was finished it left him no sabre-rattling soldier, but again the civilian with a thorough detestation of war coupled with a great pride and love for the men of the A.I.F., whom he had led so bril liantly and whose welfare was a matter of affectionate concern to him until his death, So he remained our active and honoured leader until the end, asd in his passing we all felt we had lost an exemplar and a friend. Our feelings were shared by all the citizens of the Commonwealth, who during his lifetime would, I am sure, have conferred upon him the highest honours it was in their power to bestow had he chosen to seek them. But he had settled down into another job of work-the pioneering and development of Victoria's national elec tricity and briquette undertaking. "We who worked under him after the war could not feel surprised that he should have so disaingu,ished himself as a soldier, and even if, during the war itself; we knew little of the planning and the higher strategy involved in the breaking of Germany's Hindenberg line, we cannot now. help feeling-instinctive ly perhaps-that the credit given to this civilian soldier in official writings is not overgenerous. I have put the position to myself this way: while we to-day feel disappointed and frustrated in try ing to do him justice, the official war writers, if they felt the same way, were content with a good deal less-probably found it convenient to d'o with a good deal less, in making the praise go round as widely as possible. "Sir John's Anzac Day messages were always simple and sincere. Here is an extract from one that was written some few\ months before he died: 'Those who saved the country in time of war return ed to an equally important task of help ing, to shape its destinies in times of peace, and I know they are facing their responsibilities in the spirit which made Anzac Day possible. They are the great brotherhood of the A..F., a shining memorial which teaches the lesson of love and sacrifice to all. While time will heal the mourning and leave only the glory, it will add lustre to the traditions of the A.I.F. that the memory of fallen ,comrades endured as long as there were members to foregather.' ' "The thing which impressed me most about Jolmi Monash was that lie was a tworker. Figuratively speaking, he always had his sleeves rolled up for the job in hand. To us who knew him dur ing the days of construction and de velopment at Yallourn, the description could really really be applied to him literally. What a picture of indomitable energy and purpose he presented in his military* boots, leggings and strides, as he went about with officers in charge in specting every section of the works in progress. Certainly it, was a very utilitarian outfit, for there was much mud in those early days, and he did not want to be handicapped in his in spections by dainty apparel. Here again we had a glimpse of the man and his methods, for he had no time for imped ing non-essentials. "No man I know had such a perfect genius for sifting non-cesentials from any proposal with which he had to deal. As a matter of fact he had a hatred of redundancy of any kind. His written and spoken word was remarkable for clarity and conciseness. "The only things he was prodigal of were his talents and his energies. I often thought that the harder the problem, the more he enjoyed it, accepting it as a challenge, just as another man might look upon a sporting contest or a game of skill. "What was the secret of Sir John's success in all he undertook? Let me quote from the tribute in the Electricity Commission's annual report following his death:-'Great ever in small things, and pre-eminent in great things, Sir John Monash left behind him a record alike distinguished as a leader in peace and war. To those associated with him, his success in all he undertook caused no surprise. Besides giving service, he possessed the supreme gift of inspiring it in otflrs, not singly as a reaetlon of his own devotionii to duty, but-by an
impelling and gracious personality, and by a genuine recognition of all on his staff, from the highest to the lowest, as co-operators with him in the work to La done. Between him and his stair there. was a bond of very deep affection, and to everyone in the Commission's service his death came, not simply as the removal of an able otlicial head, but as the loss of a well-loved chief, whose amiable and distinguished qualities made hinl as much revered as he was honoured.' "It was in the simple things that we found the heart .f this great man. He never forgot a face or a name or any one's sport or hobby, and he made one feel that one's doings were a matter of real friendly interest to him. I never met him without being asked, 'Well, and how are the fishing and the shooting going?' He got to know, too, that I had some fine hydrangeas, and in his unofficial inspections of the works when he was accompanied by a friend he never failed to ask 'if we might have a bunch of those beautiful hydrangeas,' not simply because he loved flowers, but because he felt that I loved their taking them. And he never failed to convey his ap preciation of any job well done. The personal touch was always there, and no man had reason to feel he was just a mere cog in the wheel where Monash was the directing genius. There are many stories of Sir John. Some may be apocryphal; but I have reason to think the one I am going to relate is quite true. This concerns a returned digger, somewhat under the weather who, hawking soap, somehow or other got past Sir John's office 'bodyguard' in the person of the late and very watch ful Bert Carroll. So Sir John was suddenly confronted with a request to buy a cake of sono. Sir John declined. and reminded the intruder that he was very busy. 'But just one cake?' pleaded the digger. 'No, I don't want any soap, and I have no money.' 'No money?' was the anxious rejoin!der; 'Oh, Sir John, here, have the (so and so) lot for nothing.' And that was the reason a box of soap (which, of course, Sir John duly paid for and more) reposed in conspicuously in his office for a time. Sir John died at the age of 6.1, and one of our saddest rebections is that he was not spared some years of leisure in which to write his reminiscences, for they would have been so very interest ing and useful. I am sure he would have had the material filed and docket ed, for he was one of the most metho dical of men, who recorded the results of interviews and his impressions of happenings and things in his strong, neat handwriting, and always had them ready for reference. Thus a splendid memory was always fortified by docu mentary evidence. His speeches testified to the soundness of his memory, for although he spoke only from headings and often not even those-he was never lost for a word, and his utterances were always models of style, free from repe titions, and clear and connected, with well-rounded periods. "I have tried in a very inconplete way to do justice to the memory of this great Australian who became a world figure. and I do not think I will be accused of an.excess of lhero-worship by anyone who knew him and his work. I feel that the passing of time will throw into even bolder relief his war and post-war achievements and that the ver dict of history will amply confirm our own estimates of his deeds and char acter. He could not have better epitaph than the words of the poet: "'None knew thee but to love thee, Nor named thee but to praise'."